Chapter 316 – The escape

As if the hounds of hell were on our tail, or perhaps the crocodiles of the damned, we fled until my poor ant legs ached with the strain and my antennae drooped low from exhaustion. Into the village, up into the church and then down in the still open Dungeon entrance the colony had opened what seemed like a lifetime ago.

Due the wave still ongoing, the tunnel was packed full of monsters and we were forced to pummel and slice our way through them in order to penetrate into the Dungeon below. The battle was endless but we were careful not to finish off the monsters that we fought, knocking them out of the way, slowing them with gravity magic, even Tiny just bopping them on the head until we were past, anything to create more of a road block for the zombie monster horde following behind us.

Down we fought, charging through the escape Tunnel that the colony had painstakingly dug until we reached the point where it connected to another Dungeon path via a narrow connection. I’d dug that connection myself in order to go hunting for the colony during our escape and hopefully it would serve us now! Tiny, Crinis, Morrelia and I piled through the narrow connection, widening it in some places to get Tiny through, before collapsing and filling it in behind us.

A simple ruse, but possibly enough to divert the mindless horde of monsters that pursued us. Damn I wish I knew how the Crocs were able to mind control monsters the way they did. Was it a form of magic? A skill? An aura mutation? I hadn’t seen anything like it in the menu so far, but that could just mean I hadn’t ‘unlocked’ it through whatever esoteric means the System used to conceal options until it was happy you’d jumped through the right hoop.

Could it be something to do with core strength even? Perhaps once I upgrade my core to a rare core, I’ll be able to influence monsters in a similar way? I just don’t know, and it’s frustrating the heck out of me.

Not content to wait so close to the escape tunnel, we battled further into this side path before I told the others to cover me whilst I dug out a new chamber, blessedly free from the influence of the mana veins and therefore clear of constant mana spawns. At least until the mana veins extend into here we will have a little chance to rest.

Exhausted we all collapse. Tiny is asleep before he even hits the ground, Crinis not far behind, though she preserves her dignity by lowering herself down to the ground with her tentacles before retracting them and growing still.

Morrelia leans back against the dirt wall and slides down, uncaring how the soil trickles down into her hair, until she’s sitting with her arms resting on her knees. I’m desperate for a bit of torpor in order to recuperate but first I have to know more about what we saw.

My minds move wearily to reconstruct the mind bridge, sheesh I’m getting a lot of practice with this construct these days, how the heck did I ever get by without it?

[Any chance you can explain to me a little about what we saw up there? The big lizard thing? The fancy spell work? Who are they and why would they want to keep Garralosh alive?]

Morrelia sat with her head bowed for a time and I resisted the urge to pester her with questions. I can tell she’s still a tad angry about we saw up there, to put it mildly, and I don’t want to be the one to set off a Berserker explosion.

[I don’t know why they’d keep that beast alive. I’ve no idea. To think that they would have to have been supporting her for decades in order to prevent her from weakening. Why? It makes no damn sense.]

[Who is ‘they’? You said something about a Koomodo?]

[Kaarmodo] she corrected me. [The giant lizard you saw is called a Kaarmodo. They’re an ancient race, older even than humans. They live for hundreds of years and are always accompanied by their Setsulah servants. I don’t know too much about it but from what I understand, the Setsulah were a race conquered thousands of years ago and pressed into slavery by the Kaarmodo. They are bound in some fashion, tied by bonds of magic to their masters.]

Magically bonded slave race? That got real dark, real quick.

[So I take it that these Kaarmodo aren’t considered friendly then? Evil race of salamanders?]

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Morrelia waved her hand in frustration. [Not really. The Kaarmodo are just another sapient race on the surface. We even trade with them here in Liria. Their empire is in the mountains to the northeast, we share a  narrow border with them. I still don’t see why they would support Garralosh. Why would they use that creature to attack Liria? Their empire is thousands of years old! They have everything they could possibly want! What is here for them?]

Morrelia was visibly angered by her inability to find a reasonable answer. The destruction was on such a broad scale and so indiscriminate, there had to be a good reason!

I didn’t necessarily agree with her. Who knows why giant lizards with magic slaves make decisions? I sure don’t.

[Could it be land?] I asked. [Perhaps they want to exterminate the minor kingdoms here and move in without anyone thinking they were behind it?]

Only allowed on

She shook her head, rejecting my suggestion outright. [What would be the point? They could walk in and stomp the minor kingdoms with almost no effort anyway. And who would care if they did? The only reason these lands were settled in the first place is because nobody wanted them!]

[Okay, well the next suggestion is a little worse. Weapons testing?]

Morrelia froze. [What do you mean?]

My inability to shrug really gets me down sometimes. There is an equivalent antennae movement that we ants use, but nobody else seems to understand it.

[Well, you’ve managed to tame a big bad monster, something that is too strong for the first strata and possibly stronger than most things on the second. Presumably, if you keep growing the monster, helping it to evolve and manage the mana that you give it, you could control it forever. Might be a bit of work, but it would sure be a heck of a lot less resource intensive than raising a pet to be as strong as Garralosh.]

[And the testing?]

[Well, if you’ve got this creature under your control, why not see how well it works? They’ve put decades worth of effort into it, may as well see if the project is going to be worth further investment.]

Morrelia turned to face me, her expression a mask of horror.

[You really think they’d destroy entire kingdoms filled with people just for that?]

I shrugged again. Antennae are the best.

[I’m not a giant lizard with hundreds of years of life behind me. You tell me. Does that sounds like something they’d do?]

Reluctantly, the Berserker nodded.

[The Kaarmodo aren’t without rivals. They compete for resources in the Dungeon with numerous groups and empires. I still can’t believe that they would go this far…]

I stepped over to the visibly emotional Morrelia and patted her on the shoulder with an antenna.

[People, lizards. They all suck. This is why I’m happy I’m an ant.]


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